If you’ve never been to a shisa nyama, you’re missing out on a staple in SA’s diverse culinary landscape.
What is more South African than sunny skies and a braai? Enjoying sizzling lamb chops and juicy wors over hot coals isn’t confined to suburban gardens – visit any township and you’ll find pumping shisa nyamas on many street corners.
A shisa nyama (isiZulu for ‘burn meat’) is a ‘restaurant’ where people hang out while their meat is braaied for them. With the hint of summer in the air, we went in search of Mzansi’s coolest ‘seat, greet and eat meat’ hot spots.
242 Booth Road Cato Manor
Durban 031 261 7224
What: If you’re looking for a truly authentic Durban experience, head to Nina’s Foods / Splish Splash Car Wash, the city’s most happening shisa nyama joint. At Nina’s you can indulge in sizzling meat cooked on a wood fire, watch live sport on a massive TV screen and down a delicious ice-cold beer… all while your wheels get a complete makeover at the car wash. The bar is cordoned off from the other amenities, making it child-friendly.
Where: Nina’s is located on the edge of Cato Manor, the city’s most vibrant township. It is something of a cultural hybrid, offering visitors a unique combination of Indian, African and Western culture.
When: Monday-Thursday 7am-6pm, Friday-Sunday 7am-late.
How: The owner, Sanjay Sewmungal, built Nina’s and Splish Splash six years ago. The car wash and restaurant were the first ventures, but as popularity grew and people from both the suburbs and township became regulars, Sanjay decided to expand.
‘I opened the butchery, the shisa nyama and the bar in 2010, just in time for the Fifa World Cup,’ he says. ‘I also installed the big screen and projector for live sports screenings. Our screen is 4x4m!’
The food ‘We use kameeldoring hard wood from Namibia for our fires, which gives the meat a delicious flavour and is environmentally friendly, unlike coal,’ says Sanjay. Choose from T-bone steak, lamb chops, pork chops, wors, kidney, liver and ox tongue – and the braai masters will cook your meat to perfection, whether you like it crispy or rare.
Add pap and sambals or salad. For those less fond of the carnivorous diet, Nina’s Foods has a wide range of vegetarian options – from bean bunny chow to delicious soya shawarmas and vegetable curries. Drinks include fine wines, whiskies and classy cocktails.
The vibe I visited Nina’s on a balmy Sunday evening and found the place packed with soccer fans watching a thrilling clash between Piratesand Supersport United.
The car wash was backed up and the place was buzzing.
After the big game, I ate a juicy piece of wors and a spicy lamb chop, which came to a very reasonable R38, including pap and sambals.
With local DJ Mdu hitting the decks withsome groovy house tunes, Nina’s was pumping.
Cnr Kingsley Sithole & Nicholas Streets
011 463 8895
What: Chaf-Pozi (Soweto slang for ‘our secret place’) opened in June 2010, just before the Fifa World Cup, and has become a popular spot for tourists, locals and corporates who want to show their staff a good time.
Where: Right next to the FNB cooling towers in Orlando.
When: Weekdays and Sunday12-10pm, Friday-Saturday 12pm-2am.
How: Shaun McCarthy, one of the owners, says the people who operate the bungee jumping at the towers felt that once people had bungeed, there was nothing else for them to do in the area. ‘So the idea for a shisa nyama came up and we’ve been running it ever since.’
The food The atmosphere is vibey and welcoming and the live music on occasion is also a drawcard, but Chaf-Pozi is popular largely because of its quality food.
Pick your meat (popular choices include chicken, boerewors, beef brisket and short ribs), pay for it by weight and have it braaied while you sit back and enjoy a beer. Other alcoholic drinks are also available, but you can’t bring your own.
Side dishes include the staple pap, gravy, coleslaw salad and chakalaka. ‘We’re also adding a set menu for R110-R260 per head,’ Shaun says, ‘but people can still enjoy a great meal for R60.’ Chaf-Pozi also offers halaal meat and vegetarian dishes are available on pre-order. Look out for the spring special – peri peri chicken, two beers and sides for R80.
The vibe I went to Chaf-Pozi on a Saturday afternoon and the wooden tables and benches were packed. The crowd was diverse, including trendy young black people, an Afrikaans family with grandparents and toddlers in tow and a huge group of tourists.
There’s no telling who you’ll bump into, which adds to the charm of the place. Live music can mean anyone from Zaki Ibrahim to Tumi, and even when it’s cold and rainy you’ll still be able to enjoy the social, happening vibe.
1-4 Strand Street Woodstock Cape Town 021 447 2133
What: The name means ‘men’ in isiXhosa and with its bright orange Sophiatown theme, complete with funky mural and red cushions, aMadoda! Braai is a shisa nyama with a difference.
Where: Woodstock, just outside Cape Town CBD.
When: Monday-Thursday 12-9pm, Friday-Sunday 12pm-2am.
How: André Potgieter, the brains behind aMadoda, came up with the idea six years ago after visiting popular Gugulethu shisa nyama Mzoli’s Place. ‘I liked it and wanted to bring the township experience to town.’
The food Unlike most shisa nyamas where you buy a portion of meat, aMadoda has a menu (the cheapest meal is R30 and the most expensive one is a 23-piece braai pack for R450). Each meal is served with a choice of Xhosa bread or pap and chakalaka. Vegetarians can also join in the fun, but they have to call in advance. You can’t bring your own booze.
The vibe There’s always different entertainment on offer, from live local groups and DJ competitions to the owner singing a tribute to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
‘We’re a mad bunch and it shows in the style of acts we promote,’ André says. The frontline manager and in-house DJ, Thierry Mukuna, has been working at aMadoda for almost five years and says they work hard to give their customers a safe and fun experience.
‘We put photos of our customers on the website and each week people can vote for the best-looking one. The winner gets a bottle of sparkling wine.’
More sizzling hot spots
1809 Tumahole Street
Imbizo Shisa Nyama
Cnr Republic and Acacia
Roads, Ebony Park, Midrand
011 312 0630/2468
1328 Mbe Road, Umlazi
031 906 1393
150 NY111, Gugulethu
021 638 1355
Maphindi’s Butchery and Restaurant
Cnr Emms Drice and Sibini
Avenues, Old Location, Nyanga 021 386 0582
9 Washington Street
021 695 4520
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